Is Housing Step One Toward Establishing Civil ‘Gideon’?

As Mayor Bill de Blasio prepares to sign a bill to ensure that all tenants in housing court have legal counsel, several other cities are moving forward with their own programs to provide poor litigants in civil cases with legal assistance.
News Story (New York)

Andrew Denney
New York Law Journal
August 10, 2017

Tags: Civil Right to Counsel, Housing: Eviction

Organizations mentioned/involved: Impact Center for Public Interest Law (NY), National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel (NCCRC)


For years, tradition held it as a rule of thumb in New York City’s Housing Courts that almost all tenants would appear without attorneys while roughly the same proportion of landlords had representation, but growing investments by the city and the court system to expand civil representation for poor New Yorkers is changing that: According to a study by the city’s Office of Civil Justice, about 27 percent of tenants who appeared in court during a two-day study period did so with attorneys at their sides.

While New York City may be leading the way in establishing programs to provide legal counsel to poor litigants in civil cases, it is not alone: Municipal and state leaders across the country are assessing where, in the absence of a true “civil Gideon,” cities can step in to provide civil litigants with attorneys.